05.38am MC's Autorepairs
The Valley, Los Angeles
The workshop had seen better days. Once a thriving autoshop, the building was now disused, the machinery it held defunct and rusted.
Iri Bolskov didn't care though. He wasn't there to repair cars.
He reached for the phone. Dialled one of several numbers he'd committed to memory in order to facilitate the events of the day. The phone rang once, and then,
"Yes?" Short, sharp and to the point. He'd have expected nothing less. Today wasn't the day for small talk.
"We're on target. Contact will be made at 6am."
A long silence.
"Are you sure it's not too soon? We don't want to overplay our hand. Are they really going to agree to our request before they've had chance to ID the virus?"
Iri bristled, not liking having his judgement questioned, especially when he knew he was more than adequately prepared. He'd spent years putting his plans into place. He wasn't about to blow it now.
That said, when he replied, it was calmly, coolly. He wasn't about to let his anger show. That wasn't his way.
"Our insider is in place. The ID will come shortly."
Another long silence. It was clearly intended to intimidate him, but infact was just serving as an irritation.
"And you're sure it'll have the necessary result?"
Iri smiled, "Oh yes. By the time they hear what she has to say, your President will be happy to hand over whatever we want. We'll only have to ask."
Connie was amazed by how quickly the briefing was over. Back in Holby they'd had longer Board Meetings relating to the selection of scrub suppliers – 10 minutes over a potential National Emergency seemed somewhat surreal.
Never the less, after 10 minutes, the meeting did break up, as everyone started to file out of the room, all nonplussed, so sure of themselves and their duties. She couldn't help feeling slightly out of her depth. It was a new feeling for her and she wasn't sure she liked it.
As she gathered her paperwork she found Jack at her side.
"We need to get you to Medical." He said, a real tone of urgency in his voice, the triple espresso clearly having had the desired effect. He was obviously completely psyched.
It was a very attractive trait.
She smiled at him, "Fine. I'll head down there and report back as soon as I have something."
He shook his head, "I'm coming with you."
"You don't have a job of your own to do?" She asked, part pleased, part surprised, part put out. The prospect of having someone breathing over her shoulder as she worked was not one she relished, even if it was someone with a physique best described as godlike.
Jack shrugged, "It's my job to follow up leads. And right now, this body is the only lead we've got."
Back in Washington, Michael was in the Communications Room, giving out some instructions, when Karen, the tequila swigging blonde, approached him, a concerned look on her face.
"Michael? Do you have a minute?"
He consulted his watch, "Literally so. Martha," he saw the surprised look on her face, realised his mistake and corrected himself, "Mrs Logan wants me in her office at 8.45 to discuss possible scenarios."
Karen sighed, "She wants to second guess these terrorists? Is there any point? They've given us nothing so far."
He shrugged, knowing there was little point of arguing since she had something of a point, instead, he figured, it was best just to pull rank on Martha's behalf, "Do you want to argue with the Leader of the Free World Karen? Besides which," he added, "we have to discuss something, and watercooler talk about last night's episode of Lost doesn't feel very appropriate." He saw her shock at his words and realised, not for the first time, that flippancy didn't go down well in serious situations, thus quickly brushed over it, "You wanted to speak to me?"
"Yes. I've just put two and two together," she nodded in the direction of the now fuzzy TV screens, "the Medical Officer in Los Angeles. She's your wife?"
Michael was suddenly on his guard, awaiting calls of foul play. He'd spent years defending his every decision as far as Connie's career went, and it annoyed him greatly. What people so frequently failed to realise was that she was perfectly capable of achieving everything she did on her own merits – nepotism didn't actually come into it.
To his surprise though, the expected criticism never came. Instead Karen lay a supportive hand on his shoulder,
"She'll be fine you know. I know its hard when they're on the front line but trust me, they look after their own at CTU."
He found himself looking at her like she had two heads, as nothing she said seemed to make any sense.
"What do you mean?"
She sighed, "I worry constantly about Bill, but more at times like this."
He dropped his gaze to her wedding ring, putting the pieces together – the husband she was devoted to, the CTU Director who had taken the briefing just minutes before. Suddenly it all became clear.
"Bill Buchanan's your husband?"
She nodded but gave him precious few seconds before she moved on from that and gave him something even bigger to consider.
"It's never far from my mind that CTU has been attacked twice by terrorists. Nor that their in-service body count outnumbers that of any other government agency. I can't help wondering if this will be the time I lose him, but hard as it is I have to stay focused, I have a job to do here." She squeezed his arm supportively, "And so do you. Anyway," she smiled weakly, "your minute must be long up. You should go."
He smiled back at her numbly, and then did precisely that, heading toward the Oval Office, her words echoing in his head and freezing his heart.
It had never occurred to him before that Connie's 'fabulous new life' might put her in danger.
And now it had, he didn't like it one bit.
It had come of something of a relief to Martha when she returned to the Oval office after the briefing to find her fiancé there waiting for her. It meant that once the door closed behind her and she was safe in his arms she could be his lover, and for a few small moments stop being the President of the United States of America.
Aaron was, as ever, her brick, having guided her to the sofa, and held her, before, very gently pushing her back into Presidential mode, albeit surrounded by his love and support.
She appreciated it, because much as she wanted to, becoming a nervous wreak really wasn't an option.
Talk between them turned to the briefing and then to the terrorist's possible demands; She started on the 'what if's' but Aaron quickly silenced her.
"I don't see as how it's relevant. Remember Martha," he said gently, stroking her hair, "We don't negotiate with terrorists. It's policy."
She laughed bitterly, "It was policy during Charles' presidency but it didn't stop us doing it then."
At the mention of her ex-husband she couldn't help noticing Aaron looked pained, but, she also noted, he quickly hid it for her sake, just like always.
"With respect Martha, Charles did a lot of things as President that you never would."
It was true. Her husband hadn't just negotiated with terrorists, technically he'd been one himself. Not that history would ever record him as such.
She sighed, "I just don't know if I'm up to this Aaron." And she didn't. She'd never regretted running for office, and relished the challenges that her post brought, but the threat of such serious terrorist attack was too much, a challenge too far, and one that brought back too many bad memories as that.
Aaron though was there to lift her, "Well, you see, Madam President, "He pulled her into his arms and kissed her on the forehead, with a gentleness that belied his strength and size, and smiled, "your people think you are, that's why they voted for you. Now you have to do your best for them, and I have every faith that you will."
Reassured by his belief in her, as much as the words themselves Martha smiled, "My darling Aaron, what would I do without you?"
Their lips met, leaving any kind of answer un-required.
Seconds later there was a knock at the door and before they could pull apart, Michael flew into the room.
"Martha, I'm sorry I'm late." His words died on his lips as he took in the scene in front of him, "Ah, I'm sorry. I'll come back."
Martha pulled away from Aaron still smiling, "No, not at all Michael. Come in, sit down. We've got things to talk about."
Connie hated Hazmat suits. It was the one bugbear of her new life. She knew they served a purpose, an important purpose, i.e. keeping her alive, but they were also big and bulky and made a laborious process of pretty much any task.
God she missed scrubs. And little paisley scrub caps.
She lumbered into the isolation room, very aware of Jack watching her through a glass panel in the wall, looking oh so fucking chic in his T-shirt and jeans combo while she resembled some kind of astronaut.
"Suits you." She heard him say, through an earpiece in the suit. She smiled. At least the technology was impressive, even if stylistically they were a bit of a nightmare.
She approached the body which someone had considerately laid out on a table in the centre of the room.
"Female, Caucasian, aged 20 – 30 years." She glanced at Jack through the glass, "Are you taking notes?"
He nodded toward a small black box on the ceiling, "High grade transmitter, picking up everything you say and recording it for future information. Satisfied?"
She bit back a comment about not being yet but possibly being so later if he was up to it. Now wasn't the time or the place. Especially not in light of the high grade transmitter and the husband who would in all likelihood read the transcripts.
"Completely." She reached for the woman's arm and examined it, "Decay consistent with death having occurred 2 to 4 days ago." She paused. "That can't be right. This body didn't look like this an hour ago."
"I know." Jack murmured. He'd seen the photographs too.
"So," Connie said, a feeling of dread mounting in her as she realised this was all looking just a little bit too familiar, "Body in advanced state of decay, inconsistent with time of death as established in situ." She abandoned any kind of procedure and moved along the body to prise open the jaw, "Mouth would appear to be coated with a tar like substance."
"Tar?" She heard Jack's question, but didn't answer it. She was already onto her next task, looking for the next confirmation that, in actual fact, she already knew what she was dealing with.
She reached for the body, turned it over, and in spite of the decay a deep purple rash was still prevalent across the lower back. She looked up at Jack.
"We can't treat this."
"Can't?! What do you mean can't?"
Can't clearly wasn't a word in his vocabulary and yet, in this situation, she knew he had no choice but to accept it.
"I mean there is no cure." She looked him square in the eyes, the feeling of dread that had been with her from the moment she opened her eyes that morning threatening to consume her, "And if there is, 10 years of government investigation hasn't found it."
Karen was glad when the message came through that she was wanted in the Oval Office. Worrying about Bill was hard enough when she was busy, and in spite of what was happening, she wasn't busy, none of them were – they were just treading water, waiting for a call or a development that seemed in no hurry to come.
She was less glad when her arrival saw her thrust into the middle of a debate between Michael and Aaron Pierce.
Michael was waxing lyrical when she entered, giving his views in that stuffed English shirt way that she'd found so attractive when he'd first joined the team. In this situation however, in this scenario it just sounded ridiculous, which was unfortunate, since it soon became clear that he was looking to her for support.
"I just don't think we should rule anything out at this stage. Maybe talking to them just what the situation needs, don't you think Karen?"
She made to respond with the negative but Aaron didn't give her chance, before he came back with a response of his own.
"I think that's the last thing this situation needs, and I'm sure Martha would agree with me."
Michael rolled his eyes, "As Martha's Chief of Staff I'd rather be having this discussion directly with her. Now," he sighed, "as the First Husband to be, don't you have something more important to be doing? Like picking out china patterns?"
Karen looked at Michael, stunned at his attitude towards Aaron who, in spite of the 'First Husband' tag was considered to be a vital part of the Logan administration, offering strength and support to the President that no one else could. She waited for Mrs Logan to intercede but nothing came – obviously she felt Aaron could fight his own battles.
Which he then proved he could.
"Mr Beauchamp," he said, in his low understated Texan drawl, "I respect your position, and your authority and the loyalty you show to Martha, but as a Secret Service Agent I have served and protected 4 former Presidents, including the first African American to hold office. I've seen and experienced acts of terrorism that you could never comprehend, I've watched good men die, and bad men get away with it. This administration does not negotiate with terrorists for a reason, and the sooner you accept that fact, the better."
To Michael's credit, Karen noted, he obviously knew when he was beaten, falling silent in the face of Aaron's stirring speech, and not accepting any right to reply.
The room fell into an awkward silence, only broken by the ringing of Michael's mobile phone. Karen watched as he glanced at The President, very much the chastened little boy, "May I?"
She nodded, and he stepped into the hall to answer it.
"Michael? It's Sabine."
He pulled a face. Talk about ways to make a bad day worse. Sabine was one little problem he'd hoped he'd got rid of when he left a message on her office voicemail earlier in the day.
"Ah, Sabine." He forced some warmth into his voice. As much as an irritant as she was, she was one of those people it paid to stay on the right side of, "Did you get my message?" He crossed his fingers hopefully.
"Absolutely. Why else would I be calling?" A beat, and then, "It's unacceptable Michael, this meeting has been pencilled in for weeks. We can't cancel."
He sighed, rueing the day he'd ever got involved with the ambitious Depart of Defence Official. "Sabine, really, it's not a good time. I can't get out of the 'house today. Have your Assistant call mine; we'll get something teed up for next week."
Or next month – or next year...
She laughed, that really irritating tinkling laugh that he's initially found rather sexy.
"No need Michael. You can't come to me, I'll come to you. I should be with you in about an hour. Can you arrange clearance?"
He groaned inwardly, knowing that the last thing he needed in the middle of this major crisis was an uninvited guest. He was just debating how to put her off when she spoke again.
"Shall we try this another way? You WILL arrange clearance. I'll see you at 10. Goodbye Michael." There was a click, and then she was gone.
It really wasn't shaping up to be his day.
"Bill, we need to speak with you immediately." Jack said, as he led Connie into the other man's office. Hearing the obvious urgency in his voice Bill looked up,
"What is it Jack?"
Jack pushed Connie forward, "Go on, tell him."
Connie took a seat and then began her story, "Before I came to LA, I was working at a military hospital in Maryland, you were probably already aware of that fact."
Bill nodded, indicating that he was, and Connie continued.
"When I was first posted there, I asked permission to bring one of my staff members from back home on board, a research assistant." She smiled faintly, "He's an interesting character. Would no doubt get on very well with your Miss O'Brian. However he's very good at what he does, and I was pleased when my request was given the go ahead. He became an invaluable member of my team."
Jack said nothing, having heard the story once and knowing that the background was relevant but Bill was more impatient, "Go on."
"In May last year, a soldier back from Iraq was brought to my unit suffering from an unidentified virus. With Mr Lund's assistance we were able to ascertain the nature of the virus and said soldier made a full recovery. But before we made a diagnosis Mr Lund undertook a lot of research, and for a period he was linking the virus our man had with one contracted by American troops in Bosnia in the 90's."
"The same virus the today's body is infected with?" Bill asked, second guessing what would come next.
Connie nodded, "At the time Mr Lund accessed a highly classified military document concerning the incident." She paused hesitantly, "And please don't ask me how he managed it. I chose not to ask." She noticed Jack smile at her encouragingly and so moved swiftly on without dwelling on Reg Lund's somewhat suspect methods, "It confirmed that an entire Battalion was wiped out by it, and biological warfare was suspected but never proved."
"Did the document give any further information?" Bill again, sounding increasingly desperate, but the response got was of little comfort.
"A sample of the virus was retrieved by the Government, the intention being to try and create a vaccine so that in the event of a wider spread attack, the virus could be contained." She took a deep breath, "At the time I saw that document, no method of vaccine had been established, and the American Government were crossing their fingers and just hoping this day would never come..."
Chloe sat staring up at Bill Buchanan's office wondering exactly what she was missing out on. She could see Jack and Connie inside, their grim faces, and she didn't like it one bit – not least because she wasn't part of it.
She'd always been part of Jack's inner circle, and now, it appeared that in the face of a medical doctor with a nice pair of legs she'd been cast aside.
It hurt. Not personally, but professionally. Well maybe a little bit personally, but she wasn't going to let that show.
She was distracted from her mood by her phone ringing, but even as she reached for it, her eyes were still on her. The bitch.
Silence, and then, eventually, an Eastern European accent… Serbian maybe.
"I'd like to speak with Jack Bauer."
Past experience told her to be immediately on her guard. She held her hand over the receiver and called to a near by techie to put a trace on her phone, then removed her hand and spoke.
"May I ask who's calling?"
Another long silence and then, "I think you know."
In seconds she was on her feet, dashing hurriedly up the stairs to Bill's office. She burst through the door without knocking.
Connie was mid sentence but Chloe didn't think twice about interrupting. What she had to say was far more important.
"Jack. I've got the target on line. He wants to talk to you."
Suddenly, he only had eyes for her.
One – Nil to the IT geek.
Jack sprinted down the stairs, Chloe, Bill and Connie in tow and hastily snatched up the phone.
"Who are you? Do I know you?"
At the other end of the line there was a brief chuckling, "No, but I know you and I know you have contacts. I know you can get me precisely what I want."
Jack's entire body stiffened, serve and protect at the forefront of his mind, "I'll get you nothing at all you son of a bitch."
More chuckling and then, "Oh, I'm sure you will. This is an easy one, all I want is an 'in'. I want is to speak with your President."